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What Makes a Superfood 'Super'?

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The term "superfood" has been popping up in headlines and on food labels across the country, but does this lofty label actually mean anything or is it simply a marketing ploy? Before you load up your blender with a fourth helping of kale, read up on what exactly superfoods are and how you should incorporate them into your diet. 

Meet ANDI 
As Organic Authority explained, there are a few categories that people look at to decide whether a food is "super" or not. Ensuring a food has a neutral pH balance and a high oxygen radical absorbance capacity score, which measures antioxidant activity in food, are key indicators of superfoods, but the most critical factor is a high Aggregate Nutrient Density Index. 

The Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, or ANDI, is a system that rates foods on how much nutrient density there is. One thousand is the highest possible ANDI score and one is the lowest. Kale, chard and collard greens have 1,000s while other foods like radishes, and carrots also score well. The higher the score, the more nutrients and "super" the food is. Green, leafy vegetables score the highest among all foods. 

Nutrition Experts Don't Like the Term "Superfood" 
Some nutritionists and scientists fear that the term "superfoods" is restrictive and misinforming. 

"Eating 'superfoods' won't hurt you. Most are very healthy," Professor of Nutrition at The Pennsylvania State University Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., RD,  told the American Heart Association. "As a registered dietician, I'd like to see people eat more of the superfoods like whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, fish, fatty fish and all fruits and veggies."

The problem isn't with the foods, it's with the term. Some people eat superfoods along with an unhealthy diet and expect results, which nutrition experts see as dangerous. Additionally, a healthy diet may help heart health or reduce the risk of cancer, but eating kale on its own will not prevent these health concerns. Apples and strawberries may not have the term superfood, like blueberries do, but they still carry plenty of nutrition and are part of a healthy diet.

Your best bet to take advantage of superfoods is to eat some - like tomatoes, avocados, salmon, beans, kale or blueberries - as part of a healthy diet rich in other nutritious whole foods. and without many processed items. 

What's the takeaway? Don't get too hung up on the term, and focus on using any nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits in your diet.